Tata Christiane makes magical things. The mind child of French-born Julie Bourgeois and Hanri Gabriel, the now Berlin-based label shapes the outlandish into the outstandish, with clothes that seem imported from some fantastic world where brightness and bobbles are the norm – just don’t tell the dour duckies at Fashion Week that their precious black is being brightened over. Her latest collection, the digitally printed “Third Eyes”, is also only the second she’s done with the aim of high production. “We chose the name “Third Eyes” because of the apocalyptic fever in the air at the end of 2012,” Bourgeois told me over a glass of wine. “I prefer to look at death from the perspective of what it brings rather than takes away – a change rather than a catastrophe, an escape rather than an end. “Third Eyes” relates to looking inside yourself, and to looking closer at things, and there’s a lot of detail in the prints that you only discover by examining them closely.” While such an idea might evoke esoteric spirituality, Bourgeois’ own interpretation is less academic: “It’s more closely tied with dreams, and how they make you feel. I don’t pretend to see the truth about the spirit. I just express my feelings inside.”
For Bourgeois, it’s this need to bring her feelings into physical reality and the emotions that they can inspire which provide her with the inspiration to craft each piece. “I saw an art documentary once about those who are philosophically bored with life. They struggle with their existence, trying to find a way to live, to face reality on terms that are meaningful to them. As I watched this film, I became aware that this is what my own work is about. When I was studying literature and philosophy, I was doing my masters on the French author Jean Giono’s book Un roi sans divertissement —“A king without entertainment”, which is part of a quote from the 17th century philosopher Pascal emphasizing that even those with much can be miserable. Clothing is my entertainment, and my escape.”
One of the first collections released by Tata Christiane was indeed titled “Ambiguous King”, but it’s her current work that finds them digging deepest into the roots of this theme. For her, clothes symbolize not just necessity, but beauty and escape. The template of beauty codes are not natural, they are not facts; they are things that we create to please us. Unlike with art, fashion needs no justification. Clothes can exist simply to be, whether they are, as Bourgeois puts it, “The extravagant, the sublime or the monstrous”. At the same time, they can change your perception of the world and allow you to enter new ones – ideas that are shaping the label’s newest work.
“In the documentary,” says Bourgeois, “one of the people interviewed was a mass-murderer. She’s explaining why she just started killing people one day, and she just says, ‘I was super bored one day. I didn’t know what to do.’ The only truth that she can express is this need to feel something, anything. That’s what our new collection will be about, this disconnection and release. We collected and photographed the objects that surround us daily, and from this we’re building the designs. There’s no sense to the images, they’re surreal and re-imagined. They represent the freedom you give yourself, the need to do something absurd without justification. In the end, how you define your emotions and existence is how you shape your reality—through need, not justification.”
Text by Daniel Jones